Alcohol has affected both my relationships and running ability and I wanted to write about how and why I made the decision to give it up permanently in my life. As of today I have gone 98 days without any type of alcohol and feel I have learned a few things along the way that a few of you may be able to use or at least relate to.
Alcohol has never been good for my mind or my body and it took some time to get used to the idea of giving it up. I enjoyed the glass of wine in the evenings sometimes or the fireball shots when I went out to dance. I always thought I needed alcohol to be able to loosen up and dance in a party setting. I started writing a journal of my experience since I quit drinking for good on March 23, 2017. Since I did not drink every day it was easy to go overboard when I would go out. This would sometimes result in feeling ill or saying things I wish I could take back. Anyone that has ever consumed too much alcohol knows that the embarrassing moments or harsh words can’t be erased. I especially didn’t like the stress it would put on Matt when he would feel bad for me when I was having a stomach ache or overly emotional. As a person who likes to be very much in control, it was terrible to get to an inebriated state and feel out of control.
People have asked me if there was one particular instance that caused me to quit. The honest answer is yes and here it is: On March 22, 2017, Mark wanted to spend time with me as friends since we were broken up at that point. I agreed to spend time with him and we decided to go to a local brewery where they had outside seating so we could talk and play cards (Monopoly Deal). I brought Millie, my dog along with us. Over the course of about an hour and a half or so we each had one beer and then split one beer together. As we were talking, it escalated into an argument. I don’t even remember what it was about and it doesn’t matter. I wanted to go home since we were not having a productive discussion anymore. I have never drunk alcohol and drove because I see the results of drunk drivers at work all the time and also know I have a lower tolerance for alcohol in general. I asked Mark if he was ok to drive and he said he was. It was 4 miles to my house from where we were. As we were driving back to my house we continued to argue and Mark also admitted that he was not okay to drive. At that moment the realization of the situation I was in hit me. I was out of control to get out of the car, I had Millie with me and she and I were both at risk of an impaired driver, and Mark was very upset and not using caution as he drove us home. I did not realize that Mark was not ok to drive until I was already in a potentially dangerous situation, dangerous for all three of us. Luckily we made it home safely and when we did I promised myself I would never be in a situation where I could not drive myself or Millie home safely again. It doesn’t seem like a major situation but it did scare me. Mark and I continued to argue and he drove away even after I told him he shouldn’t do so. He was clearly too upset and impaired to drive safely and I don’t want to be involved with people that make such decisions either.
So that is the situation that started this life change to give up alcohol. The following day I started researching the negative effects of alcohol and how to give it up permanently. I figured that if I could understand it better then I would be able to give it up easier, which turned out to be true. I watched video after video on YouTube about what alcohol does to negatively impact people’s lives and how they overcame it. The channel that was most helpful to me was by Kevin O’Hara called Alcohol Mastery. He has great advice and tips on how to overcome it. Here is the link:
That day I also removed all alcohol from our house. That included wine glasses, bottle openers, wine stands, even pictures that pertained to alcohol. I gave everything away. Not a trace of alcohol remains in our home. Matt gave up alcohol almost two years ago as a diet experiment and felt better not having it so he didn’t mind removing alcohol in the house. I was surprised by the amount of alcohol and alcohol related stuff we had in the house….frees up some space
This is what changed after I gave it up: I had to break the habits first. I would crave a glass of wine when I took a bath or played cards with Matt. I changed that to seltzer water which was not too hard to adjust too. The real challenge is when I went out dancing and I craved a glass of wine or fireball shot to loosen up. I brought seltzer water instead and the alcohol craving went away after 15 minutes. I realized that I liked having a drink in my hand and seltzer water worked just fine. I also noticed that I mainly drank when I was bored in a party setting. I didn’t realize this until I was bored and craved a shot. I was drinking in the past because I was bored! Who knew, lol. As Kevin O’Hara suggests, it is important to deal with social awkwardness or with emotions that arise rather than depend on alcohol and that is what I did. I would either talk to people and be less bored, or dance, or leave. Matt and I would leave events early if we didn’t feel like staying any longer and that was fine. We would go home or back to our room and have more interesting time spent together there.
It was nice waking up the next morning after actually sleeping well. After drinking I would never be able to sleep more that 3-4 hours. That made the next day sluggish, feeling dehydrated, and unproductive which didn’t work with my running training. It was also nice waking up and not worrying about what I said and how I said it to people I care about. Alcohol seemed to make the mouth filter disappear and that can be hurtful to others. I also liked being able to go out to dinner, or hang out with friends and be able to drive myself home safely afterward. Like I said, I never ever drove when I would have a drink so Matt would often have to come pick me up and that was inconvenient for him even though he never ever complained or said he wouldn’t.
As time has gone by it has been easier to live without alcohol. It’s amazing how I depended on it as a social crutch so much. By being a little more prepared with other juice drinks or seltzer water, I prefer different flavors of seltzer water because it has a bite to it, you can overcome the urge to drink. When I would crave alcohol it was always in the beginning of the evening and only lasted up to 15 minutes. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be to adjust my habits. I would also eat less junk food at the end of the evening. It’s a great feeling to wake up the next morning feeling actually hydrated, healthy, well rested and ready to have a productive day!
It has improved my relationship with Matt which is worth it all. Last Saturday we were driving to an event to listen to music and dance. On our way there he turned to me and said, “I’m so glad you don’t drink anymore. It was stressful for me. Stressful because I would worry about you feeling upset about something later in the night.” I apologized to him again for my behavior and the stress I caused him when I would drink. It didn’t happen every time we would go out of course but when it did it would be unnecessary stress for both of us. Not worth putting people you love and care about through that. I will admit that Mark had his share of having to listen when I would talk about things on my mind that I was upset about. He was usually good about listening to me until he fell asleep.
I don’t believe alcohol is a disease, that’s my personal opinion. Consuming alcohol is a choice and it turns into a habit. If you make the choice not to drink and then change your habits it is possible to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. I do not mind people who drink or even being around alcohol at all. I don’t think I was ever to a point where I depended on alcohol so it was a bit easier for me to change my habits. I think people can enjoy alcohol as much as they desire as long as they do it safely and do not endanger other people during the time they consume it. For me, it was easy to cross the line into having too much when I would go out. I was not one to drink because I was upset about something or using as a tool to change my mood. I drank mainly to feel less bored and in social settings when I would usually want to dance. I found that I can dance without alcohol just fine as well. Not that I’m a good dancer by any means but it can be done and be fun without having a buzz.
Writing a journal about how I felt and techniques I used to quit was very helpful. I felt it was an outlet for what I was going through and how I successfully handled feelings and situations as they happened. I would suggest you start a journal if you want to give it up also. It’s fun crossing off each day on the calendar too! In addition to seltzer water when I go out I thought I would want something else to occupy my attention rather than a drink. I decided on Lollipops. I ordered a whole bunch of differently flavored lollipops and would bring them with me when I would go out or when I was at a pool and other people would be drinking. I would have one every once in a while but found that they were not really necessary. I have them just in case.
So, overall it was a very good decision. I feel better, sleep better, and feel much much more balanced mentally. I deal with emotions rather than try to suppress them which helps me evolve as a person. I am not a religious person but am very spiritual. Not drinking has improved my spirituality in many ways as well. I won’t get into all that because I’m not here to preach on that topic but do feel it has significantly improved my spirituality in a positive way. Oh, I almost forgot….my memory is improved as well. Lol! I would never ever be able to remember people’s names when I met them but remember them now. I also remember every detail of the night and things that were said. When I would drink my attention span was noticeably small but now I can focus and retain the conversations as normal. Less embarrassing moments when people come up to say hello and you actually remember them and what they said.
I will not ever go back to drinking alcohol and that is a personal choice. If you are interested in giving it up and would like to ask any questions please don’t hesitate to. It’s really not as hard as you think to give it up and change your habits. I have been very fortunate to have great support from Matt on this decision. I will be happy to support you as well if you reach out.